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The North Face Apex Flex DryVent Review

Comfortable, stylish, and stormproof, but its limited mobility and weight limit its use for traditional applications
The North Face Apex Flex DryVent
Photo: The North Face
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Price:  $200 List | $109.42 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Stylish, stretchy fabric, stormworthy material, athletic cut, internal fabric feels less clammy than most
Cons:  Mediocre mobility and freedom of movement, breathability, heavy, hood doesn't fit over a helmet
Manufacturer:   The North Face
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 6, 2020
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61
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#12 of 13
  • Water Resistance - 30% 6
  • Breathability & Venting - 25% 7
  • Comfort & Mobility - 18% 8
  • Weight - 15% 3
  • Durability - 5% 9
  • Packed Size - 7% 3

Our Verdict

The North Face Apex Dryvent is a stylish rain jacket built with a stretchy and stormworthy fabric. Built to look more like a fitted jacket than a rain jacket, this model appears more likely to be made of wool at first glance. Despite its appearance, it's extremely capable of keeping its wearer dry in even the harshest storms. While an excellent rain jacket that is more stylish than most, it isn't exceptionally versatile. It's perfect while waiting for the bus or walking the dog in a downpour, but it's heavy and less breathable than others in our fleet, making it less ideal for aerobic applications.

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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66
Star Rating
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Pros Stylish, stretchy fabric, stormworthy material, athletic cut, internal fabric feels less clammy than mostGreat storm protection, above average breathability, no clammy feeling, packs tightly into reversible stuff pocket, deep helmet-compatible hood, less crinklyVersatile, durable, long lasting DWR, good stormworthiness, minimal clammy feelInsanely lightweight, tiny compressed size, stows tightly in a reversible pocket, hood design maintains great peripheral vision, respectable stormworthinessBetter breathability than others in its price range, decent ventilation, roll away hood, nice pit zips, affordable
Cons Mediocre mobility and freedom of movement, breathability, heavy, hood doesn't fit over a helmetAverage freedom of movement, less stretchy than most other air-permeable models, fit, low handwarmer pockets could be more functionalHeavy, average packed size, mobility, and freedom of movementAverage breathability, minimal hood, only one pocket, not as versatile in the traditional senseNo chest pocket, not quite as breathable as models that use non-coated membrane
Bottom Line Comfortable, stylish, and stormproof, but its limited mobility and weight limit its use for traditional applicationsThis jack-of-all-trades jacket offers some of the best weather protection and durability for an air-permeable modelA durable jacket with function focused design that will keep most satisfied, without putting a hole in your walletLight and compressible, ideal for trips where low weight is paramountA great jacket that offers above-average breathability, with an excellent price tag
Rating Categories Apex Flex DryVent Outdoor Research Mi... Patagonia Torrentsh... Helium Marmot PreCip Eco
Water Resistance (30%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Breathability & Venting (25%)
7.0
8.0
6.0
5.0
6.0
Comfort & Mobility (18%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Weight (15%)
3.0
6.0
6.0
10.0
6.0
Durability (5%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
4.0
6.0
Packed Size (7%)
3.0
7.0
7.0
10.0
7.0
Specs Apex Flex DryVent Outdoor Research Mi... Patagonia Torrentsh... Helium Marmot PreCip Eco
Measured Weight (Medium) 28 oz 14.5 oz 14 oz 6.3 oz 13.5 oz
Waterproof Fabric Material DryVent 3L shell Ascentshell 3L 3-layer H2No Performance Standard shell 2.5-layer Pertex Shield NanoPro
Face Fabric and Layer Construction 95% polyester, 5% elastane with DWR finish 100% nylon stretch ripstop 350-denier 100% recycled nylon, polycarbonate PU membrane, tricot backer 30D 100 nylon ripstop w/ Pertex Shield+ waterproof breathable insert 100% nylon ripstop
Pockets 2 hand pockets 2 hand, 1 chest 2 zippered hand pockets 1 zippered hand pocket 2 zip hand pockets
Are lower pockets hipbelt friendly No No No Yes No
Pit Zips No No Yes No Yes
Helmet Compatible Hood (not only fits but not too tight) Yes Yes No No Yes
Stows Into Pocket? No No Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The North Face Apex Dryvent is the perfect option for folks who need something to protect them from a downpour but would prefer it to look more stylish than your typical rain jacket. This is where the Apex is unique, with an exterior fabric that looks closer to a softshell or even a sport coat, but with the guts of a real rain shell. This does come at a cost, and that is breathability and weight, limiting its versatility and use for more traditional outdoor or aerobic uses.

Performance Comparison


This jacket is comfortable, stylish, and stormproof. However, its...
This jacket is comfortable, stylish, and stormproof. However, its significantly heavier weight and restricted mobility limits its uses for outdoor-oriented applications.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Water Resistance


This model uses DryVent, The North Face's price-focused proprietary waterproof breathable membrane in a 3-layer construction. What is unique about the Apex Flex DryVent jacket is that they laminate the waterproof membrane to an exterior stretch-woven material, which is what gives it is softshell like appearance.

While this jacket didn't let much water through its fabric, it's...
While this jacket didn't let much water through its fabric, it's exterior face fabric was the quickest to wet out.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

The Apex has a large front storm flap and a deep hood, which help keep its wearer dry. This combination of design features and thick construction help with stormworthiness. While this model does a great job of keeping water out, its exterior fabric started to absorb water quicker than others. While this wasn't necessarily a sign of water getting in, it did makes us feel colder and damper once it happened.

This jacket's hood was deep and comfortable but was the only product...
This jacket's hood was deep and comfortable but was the only product we tested to not feature any cinch mechanism. As a result, it blew off our head from time to time and wasn't as effective at keeping the rain out.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Hood Design

The Apex sports a deep hood, which is nice for keeping the rain off your face. It only has cinches on the sides of the wearer's face (no back cinch); despite this, it kept our head dry, but provided minimal peripheral vision when we turned your head (you just end up looking inside your hood when you turn your head). The hood does not fit over a climbing or bike helmet, but it is possible to wear a helmet over the top of the hood.

Partly due to the lack of cinches but also partly due to design...
Partly due to the lack of cinches but also partly due to design, this model offered the worst peripheral vision of any jacket we tested. When we'd turn our head, our face would quickly end up inside the hood.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Breathability & Venting


The proprietary DryVent membrane lacks the breathabilty found in jackets of a similar price range; this was disappointing considering it appeared to have one of more breathable interior and exterior fabrics. The interior stretch-knit backer material made the jacket feel less clammy than most. However, if we started working hard or got aerobic, we easily overwhelmed the maximum moisture capacity. In turn, we would end up quickly wetting out the internal material.

The internal material was cozy and was among the least clammy...
The internal material was cozy and was among the least clammy feeling of our test fleet. However, when working hard in this jacket, we found it had some of the worst breathability of any jacket tested.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Comfort & Mobility


For interior fabric, the Apex uses a solid, stretch-knit backer, which is soft and does not produce a clammy feel. Its material also has a good amount of stretch to it, which helps with mobility and feels less restrictive. However, while we liked the athletic cut, it certainly doesn't have a mobility-focused cut. No other model had its sleeves pull back as far from our wrists when we reached forward, or have the hem raise as much as this one. It will suffice for mellow activities, but if you need something to move with you for your rainy day activities, you'll want to look elsewhere.

This model looks like a sports jacket but unfortunately is also cut...
This model looks like a sports jacket but unfortunately is also cut like one. It offers some of the poorest freedom of movement and mobility of any model we tested.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Weight


While the thick stretch-woven exterior and knit interior fabrics are comfortable and stylish, they do make this one of the heaviest models we tested, limiting its use for more traditional outdoor activities, like hiking, backpacking, or mountaineering. At 28 ounces, it's almost double the weight of others in our fleet and is almost five times the weight of some. Weight, along with limited mobility, are the primary factors limiting to this model's outdoor, athletic use.

The Apex Flex isn't designed to wear with a pack. Its handwarmer...
The Apex Flex isn't designed to wear with a pack. Its handwarmer pockets are quite low, rendering them useless when worn with a harness or hip belt. The bulky zipper and its storm flaps pinched our hips quite badly under the weight of our pack's waist-belt.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Durability


The weight does have some benefits, and one of those is certainly durability. This product has a stretch-woven face fabric, which is why it looks more like a softshell on the exterior, while the rest in our review use a (more typical) nylon or polyester fabric. While it is quicker to wet out, this model's stretch woven material is thicker and more abrasion resistant than even 50D nylon or polyester models.

The inside is a solid, stretch-knit backer, which is going to hold up better than a traditional 2.5-layer jacket. It will do a better job of protecting its waterproof membrane from sweat and grime, thus increasing the longevity of the waterproof layer.

Despite being nearly double the weight of any other product we...
Despite being nearly double the weight of any other product we tested, it's around average in packed size. This makes it great to throw in a computer bag or briefcase after it has stopped raining. It is shown here next to a 1-liter Nalgene.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Packed Size


Despite being one of the heaviest in our review, this jacket was similar in packed volume. This lets it disappear in the bottom of a laptop bag or backpack once the storm has stopped, or if it is threatening to pour later in the day. It isn't so enormous that you couldn't throw it in the bottom of your pack for a day hike, but if these types of applications are what you are primarily looking to buy your rain jacket for, there are better options.

This jacket is far more functional than the traditional wool sports...
This jacket is far more functional than the traditional wool sports coat it's trying to replicate, and it's stylish enough that we wonder why you would bother spending twice the money on something that doesn't perform as well under any circumstance.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Value


Compared to other rain jackets, this model is in the middle of the road from a price perspective. However, it offers a unique and stylish look; it also provides decent weather resistance, even at if its at the cost of other performance characteristics such as weight or mobility.

This is a great coat for around-town and occasional outdoor use. If...
This is a great coat for around-town and occasional outdoor use. If you want something purely for outdoor pursuits, you can certainly buy something more technical. If you already have an outdoor-oriented jacket, then this is a functional model that will keep you dry and looking sharp on the way to the office.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Conclusion


This jacket is comfortable, stylish, and stormproof; however, its limited mobility and weight will limit its use for traditional applications, like hiking, backpacking, or mountaineering. It's plenty stormworthy for waiting for the bus or walking the dog in the pouring rain; you can also wear it out for a night on the town. We just recommend looking elsewhere if you're after a rain jacket for active outdoor pursuits.

Ian Nicholson